Beams was born in Victoria and moved with his family to the Gold Coast at four years of age. Outside of football, Beams was also a very talented cricketer in his younger years. He attended Palm Beach Currumbin State High School in his teenage years.
Beams began playing football for the Mudgeeraba Saints at six years of age. He would later switch to the Southport Australian Football Club and debuted for the senior team in 2007. In 2008 he would solidify his spot in the Southport midfield as well as captaining the Queensland U18 team. Beams would go on to be a part of the QAFL senior premiership winning side later that year for Southport. He would kick an early Grand Final goal for Southport as they claimed an 8-point victory over Morningside at Carrara Stadium. Beams then rejected a guaranteed three-year contract with the GC17 expansion team and instead opted to enter the 2008 AFL Draft.
Beams was selected by Collingwood with selection 29 in the 2008 AFL Draft. A versatile midfilelder who can defend and attack, Beams is a high possession winner who is balanced and composed when in close proximity to opponents. A Queensland representative in the 2008 NAB AFL Under-18 championships, Beams knocked back a deal to sign with future Gold Coast Football Club instead deciding to nominate for the 2008 AFL Draft. He was again linked to the new Queensland based club in 2009, but signed an extension to his contract to the end of the 2012 season.
Beams played three games in the NAB Cup kicking a goal in each game, including a super goal against Essendon. He made his AFL debut in round 2, when Dale Thomas was a late withdrawal from the team due to a virus.
Beams finished fourth in the NAB Rising Star 2009 after being nominated in Round 17. He won the Harry Collier Trophy in 2009 as Collingwood's best first year player.
Beams had a breakout year in 2012. He averaged over 31 possessions a game, impressing in best-on-ground performances against Adelaide, West Coast and Sydney. His rise was most notably attributed to the long-term injury of midfielder Luke Ball in round 3. Beams led the entire AFL for handball receives and was third in the competition for disposals. He was also in contention for the 2012 Brownlow Medal along with teammates Scott Pendlebury and Dane Swan.
As a result of Beams' breakout 2012 season, he was awarded the 2012 3AW Player of the Year award, ahead of Essendon's Jobe Watson, Gold Coast's Gary Ablett and Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell.
To cap off the 2012 season, which saw Beams become one of the games' elite midfielders, he was selected in the 2012 All-Australian Team on a wing. Adding to this recognition, Beams finished the season winning the E.W. Copeland Trophy beating of 2011 winner Scott Pendlebury by 35 votes. Beams had an up and down 2013 season after niggling quad injuries. Beams finally made his AFL return in Round 16, 2013 and averaged over 30 possessions for the remainder of the season.
At the end of the 2014 season Beams asked to be traded to the Brisbane Lions in order to be closer to his ill father and also to play with his younger brother, Claye Beams. On 15 October 2014, Beams was officially traded to the Lions.